The Miami Dolphins spent the week in California preparing for their Week 2 contest against the Los Angeles Chargers. Miami practiced at the Dallas Cowboys’ training camp facilities as part of their evacuation plan from Hurricane Irma, a storm that forced the league to postpone the Dolphins’ 2017 debut until Week 11. This means today was the first chance anyone had to see the Dolphins this regular season.
The Dolphins came out in their 2017 regular season debut and sneak out of Los Angeles with the 19-17 win.
Prior to the game, the oddity of the Dolphins’ season continued, with the latest story coming from linebacker Lawrence Timmons, who left the team Sunday morning. Reports have indicated that he was angry about something when he left, though it was not clear if it was anger at the team or something in his personal life. He is said to not have been in any legal trouble, and the issue is not life threatening, with the Dolphins only saying they know where he is.
First Half Recap
The Dolphins defense hit the field first for the game after the Dolphins won the coin toss and deferred. The defense forced a three-and-out, giving Miami a rare quick start for the club.
The offense got off to a similar fast start. Riding behind Jay Ajayi, who picked up 36 yards on five carries. Jay Cutler, in his debut as Miami’s quarterback, threw for 31 yards on 4-for-5 passing, connecting with Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker, and Julius Thomas on the drive. The only incompletion came on a deep pass attempt to Kenny Stills - Cutler has gotten every major skill player involved in the game early, and the Dolphins offense should be able to get into a rhythm quickly because of it.
After Miami scored on a 30-yard Cody Parkey field goal, the defense again came out and attacked. Ndamukong Suh blew up the offensive line to tackle Melvin Gordon on a run attempt for a loss. Cameron Wake had a beautiful stunt that looked for a second like it might kill Philip Rivers. It was not a three-and-out possession, but the Chargers only picked up 14 yards before punting after four plays - though they did try to draw Miami offsides on fourth down, with Rivers yelling “I goosed you. We had a gimme sneak,” as the clock ran down, implying he wanted to run a quarterback sneak with no defensive tackle line up straight on the center.
Things seemed to settle down a little as both teams felt out the other. Los Angeles tied up the game after a six=play, 23-yard drive, connecting on a 41 yard field goal. After Miami punted again, the Chargers found their offensive rhythm, however. A 70-yard, seven-play drive, featuring Rivers throwing for 29 yards, while Branden Oliver picked up 26 yards on one carry. Two penalties on the Dolphins, a defensive pass interference call in the endzone on Reshad Jones and an offsides penalty on Jordan Phillips, aided the Chargers, who scored on a one-yard Melvin Gordon run.
Los Angeles led 10-3.
The Chargers again went on a long drive after a Miami punt, moving 55 yards in 10 plays. The Miami defense appeared to be playing fairly soft pass coverage, and Rivers used it to his advantage as he picked up 60 yards on the drive. As the Dolphins defense looked to shut down the Chargers on a second third-down play on the drive, Reshad Jones, William Hayes, and Ndamukong Suh all collapsed on Rivers to get the sack. The Chargers then missed the field goal, keeping the score 10-3.
Miami got the ball back with 30 seconds to play, but were unable to move the ball down the field and the clock expired.
First Half Reactions
The Dolphins defense - especially Suh - is shutting down the running game for the Chargers. Los Angeles has 31 yards rushing on 10 attempts, with 26 yards coming on one play. The pass defense, however, is playing too soft, and Rivers is going to continue to carve them up if they do not make a change.
On offense, Ajayi looks like Ajayi, running yard and picking up chunks of yardage, with or without contact. The passing attack, however, seems a little forced. Cutler is not airing out the ball as much as expected, relying more on shorter passes, allowing Parker, Landry, Stills, and Thomas to try to make the play. He is 13-for-17 for 75 yards at this point, but it just feels like everything is about being safe right now.
Second Half Recap
The Dolphins received the opening kick of the second half. The offense opened up, immediately, with Cutler starting to push the field a little more, while Ajayi continued to run the ball strong up the middle. Cutler connected with Landry for 11 yards, then Ajayi picked up seven yards, followed by an incomplete pass to Parker - a pass that should have been called complete with a fumble, but somehow the NFL still cannot figure out what a catch is. Ajayi picked up eight yards on the next play, followed by five yards, then a no gain rush before Cutler scrambled to his right and found Stills cutting across the back of the endzone for a 29-yard score.
The Dolphins tied the game at 10 with the score.
The Chargers, however, immediately answered with a 77-yard drive that was way too easy. The Dolphins secondary continued to play soft coverage, and Rivers again took advantage of it. Melvin Gordon started the drive with a 15-yard run, his best of the day, then Rivers picked up 12 yards to Tyrell Williams. Gordon added another 11 yards, then Rivers connected with Keenan Allen for 21 yards, and Hunter Henry for 11 yards. After an incomplete pass, Rivers found Antonio Gates for a seven-yard touchdown pass and a 17-10 lead.
Miami again started moving fdown the field, with Ajayi picking up another 13 yards on five carries on the next possession. Cutler, meanwhile, threw for another 57 yards, including a 31 yard jump ball to Parker:
The drive, however, stalled after Cutler was sacked on third down at the Chargers’ 10 yard line. The Dolphins settled for a field goal, closing the gap to 17-13.
After forcing the Chargers to punt - which was partially blocked by Senorise Perry - Miami’s defense again marched down the field. Ajayi started the drive with a seven-yard pickip, then five more on the next play. Cutler found Parker for 12 yards on the third play, then tried another jump ball to Parker that was knocked away at the last possible second. The Cutler-to-Parker connection worked again two plays later, with a 31-yard gain. Cutler then connected with Ajayi for three yards, before a two-yard loss by Ajayi on a run. Cutler then connected with Landry for 12 yards. Ajayi picked up three yards, but the play was waived off due to a holding penalty on Jermon Bushrod, dropping the Dolphins back to the Chargers’ 16 yard line. After a sack on Cutler, the Dolphins again settled for a field goal, bringing it to 17-16.
Kenyan Drake stopped the kickoff return at the Chargers 11-yard line, then the Dolphins stuffed Gordon on first down. Los Angeles turned to Rivers, who connected with Hunter Henry for four yards, bringing up 3rd-and-7, then finding Allen for nine yards and the conversion. The Chargers clearly were looking to burn the clock, throwing short passes to try to keep it moving while picking up first downs. After a third-yard pass to Henry, Rivers looked deep, but it was incomplete. On another 3rd-and-7, the Dolphins defense stopped the play after a four-yard gain, and forced a punt.
Jakeem Grant then returned the punt 14 yards to set up Miami with the ball at mid-field. Ajayi picked up 11 yards on his first carry, pushing a pile forward until he picked up the first down. Unfortunately, Landry appeared to roll an ankle in the pile and had to limp off the field. Ajayi picked up another yard on first down, then added three more after the two minute warning. Landry returned to the game after the break as well.
The Dolphins ran the ball one more time to bring up 4th-and-5 at the Chargers 36-yard line. Cody Parkey connected on the 54-yard field goal to give the Dolphins the 19-17 lead with 1:05 remaining.
The Chargers took no time at all to move the ball back down the field. However, they missed the game winning field goal and Miami came away with the victory.
Second Half Reactions
The Dolphins are not there yet, but there are pieces coming together. The defense has to clean up the pass coverage, with Rivers able to pick them apart too often. The run defense, however, did well most of the game. Gordon picked up some chunks in the second half, but overall, they were able to disrupt anything the Chargers wanted to do.
On offense, Ajayi and Parker looked like exactly what the Dolphins wanted to see from their top running back and their breakout candidate receiver. Ajayi was simply unstoppable most of the game, picking up 122 yards on 28 carries. Parker added 85 receiving yards with four receptions. Landry looked like the solid receiver he is, picking up 78 yards on a game high 13 receptions.
The Dolphins will visit the New York Jets next week in their first AFC East divisional game of the year.